Analog Reminiscences

Joel Rollins blog posts Vanishing History parts 1 and 2 got me thinking about my own experiences with analog recording media.

Recently I dug up a box of mixed tapes that I had painstakingly duped in the late 1980s. Kids today with their iPods have no grasp on how much work we had to do back then to create compilations of favourite songs. It wasn’t just spending all day cueing up tracks and requiring razor-sharp reflexes to synchronize the PLAY, RECORD, and STOP buttons to avoid clicks or, even worse, cutting off the first or last seconds of a song, it also included the hand-lettered track listings on the insert for the cassette case.

Long story short, while attempting to digitize those old cassettes it was apparent that they were toast. The audio quality had degraded to the point that they weren’t worth saving. It’s kind of a shame, since there were some rarities that I’ve never found again online.

On another note, as late as 1999 I was still selling as many 100 Betamax tapes a week at the Sony Store I managed. I had four different gentlemen in my client binder who were diehard Beta fans: they all owned more than one machine, often cannibalizing them for parts to keep one running. They had all long since crossed the line from enthusiast into hobbyist, and quite possibly into madness.

It worked like this: whenever we got a delivery of Beta tapes I’d give each of my clients a call and let them know I had them in stock. Whoever got there first generally bought them all. They knew each other, unsurprisingly, and it was a little game to them, trying to scoop each other. For me it was a reasonably lucrative sideline, and a loyalty builder that led to them all buying more electronics from me (never a VHS recorder, mind you).

I sometimes think about those guys and wonder if they’re still fighting the tide, repairing and refurbishing their Betamax machines or if they’ve thrown in the towel and bought an HD-PVR.